Doctors likely have final say in Dennis Pitta's future

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Tight end Dennis Pitta wants to return this season, and the Baltimore Ravens are ready to welcome him back after seeing how tough he was to cover in recent practices.

So, will the Ravens activate Pitta off the physically unable to perform list Wednesday? That decision might ultimately be out of the hands of both Pitta and the Ravens.

"The doctors are going to take a hard look at that and help him decide if it's safe," coach John Harbaugh said Monday after coaches and players returned from their bye. "It's going to be based on how the hip is responding to practices."

Baltimore must decide this week whether to activate Pitta or end his season by keeping him on the PUP list. His 21-day practice window officially ends Wednesday.

Pitta, 30, has had hip surgeries in each of the previous two seasons. The last time he fractured his right hip came 14 months ago, when he lost his balance on a catch and collapsed to the ground without being hit.

Harbaugh was impressed with how Pitta has looked in the tight end's first regular season practices in over a year.

"We had a tough time covering him," Harbaugh said. "He made a bunch of plays out there. He just looked like his old self out there."

But Harbaugh added, "Don't construe that as saying he's ready to go, because it's not about that."

The Ravens signed Pitta to a five-year, $32 million deal that included $16 million guaranteed during the 2013 offseason. Since that contract, Pitta has played in seven games, catching 36 passes and scoring one touchdown. Pitta is guaranteed $4 million this season, whether he plays or not.

"Dennis is going to play if he can," Harbaugh said. "There's no doubt in my mind, based on what I've talked to him. If it's safe and he feels like he can get out there and the hip is responding well, he's going to play. If it's not safe, he's not going to play. It's not a black and white decision, but it's a decision that he has to make with the doctors."

This decision could affect not only this season but Pitta's career.

"I would like to think that if I can't make it back this year, what's going to change next year?" Pitta said last month. "For me, in my mind, I'm working to get back this year. If I can't, that might be it."

The Ravens and Pitta are scheduled to sit down and talk Tuesday.

"We'll have a pow wow on it and figure out if that's what we're going to do on what the doctors and he say is the best thing," Harbaugh said.